Thousands have taken to the streets in Cuba this week to protest against the authoritarian government that rules over them. The Covid-19 crisis has exacerbated Cuba’s already bad living conditions, and anger at the government’s handling of the situation reached a point where it could no longer be contained. Cuba’s one-party state has cracked down hard on the protesters, by beating, shooting and imprisoning its own citizens.
Last night, Cuban president Miguel Diaz-Canal took a novel step and admitted that his government’s handling of the crisis had possibly not been as brilliant as his people should have expected. ‘We have to gain experience from the disturbances,’ he said during a televised address to his people. ‘We also have to carry out a critical analysis of our problems in order to act and overcome and avoid their repetition.’
Oddly, this strange moment of uncharacteristic reflection from the Cuban president was more self-aware than whole swathes of the parliamentary Labour party have been. Scores of Labour MPs have this week defended the actions of the Cuban regime, by blaming the whole thing on the Americans.
Paula Barker, Labour MP for Liverpool Wavertree, suggested:
“‘The Cuban people are suffering right now from the double effects of the cruel US blockade and Covid 19. It is surely time for President Biden to suspend the Blockade and allow Cuba to purchase the much needed medicines and resources it needs. @CubaSolidarity’
The handle she referenced at the end refers to the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, a London-based group which insists repeatedly that everything would be hunky dory in Cuba were it not for America’s ‘blockade’, by which they mean the trade sanctions that have been imposed on Cuba for decades.
The Labour MP for Easington, Grahame Morris, even tweeted out a full statement from the campaign group, which was itself filled with a lot of gems. Besides the usual far-left boilerplate stuff about this all being the fault of the Americans, it contained the following section:
“‘Some groups are seeking to exploit and provoke this difficult situation. They called for people to protest in other locations, resulting in protests in some towns and cities. In response, thousands of Cubans supporting the government have taken to the streets across the island in counter-demonstrations against US interference.’
Ah, yes, the old ‘counter-demonstrations in favour of the dictatorship are real while demonstrations against the government are fake and probably caused by foreigners’ routine used to great effect from North Korea to Syria to Venezuela.
Diane Abbott tweeted out the handle for the Cuban Solidarity Campaign as well, telling the world that ‘The overwhelming majority of the world's countries and people oppose the illegal US blockade of Cuba. The blockade is the source of all Cuba's economic difficulties.’ Zara Sultana, Richard Burgon and Ian Lavery were just some of the other high-profile Labour MPs tweeting similar messages out over the past few days.
As it happens, I do agree with the Cuba Solidarity Campaign and these Labour MPs on one thing – I wish the US had ended trade sanctions on Cuba a long time ago. That way, the communist regime in Cuba could have been allowed to fail on its own terms, which it inevitably would have done, robbing the far-left of the ability to use the Americans as scapegoats for socialism’s continuing failures.
So, what is Keir Starmer going to do about all of this? How can he claim that Labour have moved on from the Corbyn era when the people of Cuba rise up against the dysfunctional dictatorship they are stuck with, and all a significant chunk of his MPs can do is act as apologists for the regime? I’m guessing he’ll keep quiet until this all blows over, but I can live in hope.
It’s stuff like this that makes me worry about Labour getting into power. As someone who isn’t fond of this government, it would be nice to feel like there was a reliable alternative. Some days, I almost convince myself a Labour government might not be so bad and who knows, might even be good. On other days, Labour MPs defend the actions of a repressive government in a one-party state and that feeling bites the dust.
Is it really too much to ask that a party that labels itself ‘democratic socialist’ at least cares about the ‘democratic’ bit a little? This week, the thinking that has infected the western left for the past decade has been well displayed: repression is bad when Americans and their allies are seen to be doing it, yet it is completely defendable when the enemies of the Americans partake in the exact same sort of behaviour.